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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Among the figures employed by the apostolical writers to set forth the nature of the transaction by which our Lord has saved His people, none is more illuminating than that which we are accustomed to speak of as ‘redemption.’ The terms ‘redeem,’ ‘redemption,’ ‘redeemer’ are a gift of the Latin Bible to our theological language. They fail in complete exactness as renderings of the terms which they are used to translate in the apostolical writings, in so far as there still clings to them the notion, intrinsic in their form, that the buying which they denote is distinctively a ‘buying back.’ The English word ‘ransom,’ etymologically a doublet of ‘redeem,’ has more completely lost its etymological implication of specifically ‘buying back,’ taking on in its stead rather that of ‘buying out.’ The series ‘ransom,’ ‘ransoming,’ ‘Ransomer’ might on this account serve better as equivalents of the Greek words currently employed by the apostolical writers to convey this idea. These are: [λύτρον, Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45]; ἀντίλυτρον, 1 Timothy 2:6; λυτροῦσθαι, Luke 24:21, Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 1:18; λύτρωσις, Luke 1:68; Luke 2:38, Hebrews 9:12; ἀπολύτρωσις, Luke 21:28, Romans 3:24; Romans 8:23, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30, Colossians 1:14, Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 11:35; [λυτρωτής, Acts 7:35]. No words provided by the Greek language could convey more distinctly the idea which we commonly express by the term ‘ransoming.’ Their current employment by the writers of the NT to describe the action of our Lord in setting His people free is proof enough of itself that this action was thought of by them not broadly as ‘deliverance,’ but as a deliverance in the distinct mode of ‘ransoming.’ If ‘deliverance’ alone, without implication of the mode of accomplishing it, had been what was intended to be expressed, the simple forms λύειν, λύσις, λυτήρ or some of their strengthened prepositional compounds lay at hand. These were in common use in the sense of ‘delivering,’ and indeed some of them (like λύεσθαι and ἀπολύεσθαι) had even acquired the special sense of ‘ransoming.’ Instead of them, however, the NT writers elected to employ forms which embody in their very structure an open assertion that the mode of deliverance spoken of is by ‘ransom.’ To say λύτρον is to say ‘ransom’; and to say λυτροῦσθαι, λύτρωσις, is to say λύτρον; while ἀπολύτρωσις is but a stronger way of saying λύτρωσις.

Of course, even words like these, in the very form of which the modal implication is entrenched, and which owe, in fact, their existence to the need of words emphasizing the mode unambiguously, may come to be used so loosely that this implication retires into the background or even entirely out of sight. In our common English usage the words ‘redeem,’ ‘redemption,’ ‘redeemer’ retain no sure intimation of their etymological denotation of ‘buying back,’ but suggest ordinarily only a ‘buying out.’ They are sometimes used so loosely as to convey no implication even of purchase. That λυτροῦσθαι, λύτρωσις, ἀπολύτρωσις have suffered in their NT usage such a decay of their essential significance cannot be assumed, however, without clear proof. In point of fact, the actual accompaniments of their usage forbid such an assumption. In a number of instances of their occurrence the intimation of a price paid is prominent in the context; in other words, the deliverance spoken of is definitely intimated as a ransoming. In the remaining instances this intimation becomes no doubt rather an assumption, grounded in their form and their usage elsewhere; but that is no reason for neglecting it. The apparently varying usage of the terms depends merely on an oscillation of emphasis between the two elements of thought combined in them. Sometimes the emphasis is thrown on the mode in which the deliverance asserted is wrought-namely, by ransoming. Sometimes, on the other hand, it is shifted to the issue of the ransoming which is affirmed-namely, in deliverance. In the former case the stress falls so strongly on the idea of ransoming that the mind tends to rest exclusively on the act of purchasing or the price paid. In the latter it rests so strongly on the idea of deliverance that we are tempted to forget that an act of ransoming is assumed as its procuring cause. In neither case, however, is either element of thought really suppressed entirely. Christ’s ransoming of His people is of course always thought of as issuing in their deliverance. His deliverance of His people is equally thought of always as accomplished by a ransoming.

We may be surprised to observe that the epithet ‘Redeemer’ (‘Ransomer,’ λυτρωτής) is never applied to our Lord in the NT. Even the broader designation, ‘Deliverer,’ is applied to Him only once, and that in a quotation from the OT (ὁ ῥυόμενος Romans 11:26, from Isaiah 59:20; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:10). In fact, we do not meet with ‘Redeemer’ (λυτρωτής) as a designation of our Lord in extant Christian literature, until the middle of the 2nd cent. (Justin, Dial. xxx. 3; cf. lxxxiii. 3), and it does not seem to become common until three centuries later. Nevertheless, Justin himself tells us that it was in ordinary use in the Christian community when he wrote. ‘For we call Him Helper and Redeemer,’ he says, with an allusion to Psalms 19:14. And it seems that in the only instance of the appearance of the term in the NT-Acts 7:35, where it is used of Moses-its employment as a designation of our Lord is already pre-supposed. For it is applied to Moses here only as the type of Christ, and with a very distinct reference to the antitype in the choice of the word. The Israelites had demanded of Moses, ‘Who made thee a ruler and a judge?’ Stephen, driving home his lesson, declares that him who was thus rejected as ‘ruler and judge’ God has sent ‘both as ruler and as redeemer.’ The both … and’ is to be noted as well as the change of term. ‘Redeemer’ is introduced with great emphasis; attention is called markedly to it as a significant point in the argument. ‘Observe,’ says H. A. W. Meyer, ‘the climax introduced by λυτρωτήν in relation to the preceding δικαστήν. It is introduced because the obstinacy of the people against Moses is type of the antagonism to Christ and His work (v. 51); consequently, Moses in his work of deliverance is a type of Christ, who has effected the λύτρωσις of the people in the highest sense (Luke 1:68; Luke 2:38, Hebrews 9:12, Titus 2:14)’ (Commentary on the NT; ‘Acts,’ vol. i. [1877] p. 204 f.). We must look upon the absence of instances of the application of the epithet ‘Redeemer’ to Christ in early Christian writers, therefore, as merely a literary phenomenon. Christians were from the first accustomed to speak of their Lord as ‘Redeemer.’ The usage undoubtedly was not so rich and full in the earlier ages of the Church as it has since become. The intense concreteness of the term probably accounts in part for this. But it was already in use to express the apostolic conception of the function of our Lord as Saviour.

The basis of this apostolic conception is laid in our Lord’s own declaration, ‘For verily the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28), a declaration elucidated and enforced in those others, preserved by John, in which He speaks of laying down His life for the sheep (John 10:11), or His friends (John 15:13), or of giving His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51). In this great declaration our Lord is commending a life of service to His disciples by His own signal example. He adduces His example after a fashion which runs on precisely the lines repeated by Paul in Philippians 2:5 ff. He calls Himself by the lofty name of the Son of Man, and, by thus throwing the exaltation of His Person into contrast with the lowliness of the work He was performing, He enhances the value of His example to a life of service. He describes His whole mission in the world as service, and He adverts to His ransoming death as the culminating act of the service which He came into the world to render. He, the heavenly man of Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:13), came into the world for no other purpose than to perform a service for men which involved the giving of His life as a ransom for them. Thus He makes His ransoming death the final cause of His whole manifestation in the world. The terms He employs to describe His death as a ransom are as simple and precise as possible. He speaks of ‘giving his life,’ emphasizing the voluntariness of the act. He speaks of giving His life as a ‘ransom,’ using the most exact word the Greek language affords (λύτρον) to express the price paid to secure the release of prisoners, the manumission of slaves (see A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 322 ff., with some of the necessary correctives in T. Zahn, Der Brief an die Römer, 1910, p. 180, note 51 from the middle), or the purchase of immunity for faults committed against Deity (see F. Steinleitner, Die Beicht im Zusammenhange mit der sakralen Rechtspflege in der Antike, p. 37 f.). He speaks of giving His life as a ransom ‘for,’ or rather ‘in the place of,’ ‘instead of,’ ‘many,’ the preposition (ἀντί) employed emphasizing the idea of exchange, or, we may say shortly, of substitution. In this declaration, then, our Lord Himself sets forth in language as precise as possible His work of service for man as culminating in the vicarious payment by His voluntary death of a ransom price for them. This is what He came to do; and in this, therefore, is summed up briefly the nature of His work for men.

It would be strange if so remarkable a declaration had produced no echoes in the teaching of our Lord’s followers. A very distinct echo of it sounds in 1 Timothy 2:6, where it is declared of the man Christ Jesus, the only Mediator between God and men, that ‘he gave himself a ransom for all.’ The term employed for ‘ransom’ here is a strengthened form (ἀντίλυτρον), in which the idea of exchange, already intrinsic to the simple form (λύτρον), is made still more explicit. This idea having thus been thrown into prominence in the term itself, the way was opened to add an intimation of those with whom the exchange is made by means of a preposition which indicates them as beneficiaries of it (ὑπέρ). The voluntariness of the ransoming transaction on our Lord’s part is intimated when it is said that He ‘gave himself’ a ransom for all, a phrase the full reference of which on Paul’s lips may be gathered from Galatians 1:4 : ‘who gave himself for our sins’ (cf. Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25). Every element of thought contained in Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28, in a word, is repeated here; and what is there represented by our Lord as the substance of His mission, is here declared by Paul to be the sum of the gospel committed to him to preach. It is the ‘testimony in its own times, whereunto I was appointed a preacher and an apostle’ (1 Timothy 2:7).

It is only an elaboration of the central idea of this declaration when Paul (Titus 2:14), stirred to the depths of his being by the remembrance of all that he owes to ‘our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ,’ for ‘the epiphany of whose glory’ he is looking forward as his most ‘blessed hope,’ celebrates in burning words the great transaction to which he attributes it all: ‘who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works.’ The fundamental fact thrown up to observation here too is that Jesus Christ ‘gave himself for us.’ The assertion is the same as that of 1 Timothy 2:6, and the meaning is the same: our Lord voluntarily gave Himself as a ransom for our benefit. This statement dominates the whole passage, and doubtless has determined the choice of the verb ‘ransom’ in the first clause of the telic sentence which follows. But it is the effects of this ransoming which are particularly developed. Paul’s mind is intent in this context on conduct. He would have his converts live worthily of the grace of God which has come to them, their eyes set upon the recompense of the reward. If Christ gave Himself for our sins, it was that we might sin no more. That is expressed in Galatians 1:4 thus: ‘That he might deliver us out of this present evil world.’ It is expressed here thus: ‘That he might ransom us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works.’ The two statements have fundamentally the same content, expressed, however, in the one case negatively, and in the other positively. Christ ransomed us by the gift of Himself, that we might no longer belong to the world but to Him. To belong to Christ is to be holy; and therefore those who are His, while still in the world must live soberly, righteously, and godly, expecting His coming, that their deliverance out of this evil world may be completed. The verbs used in the two statements are, however, different. In the one case, the verb employed (ἐξαιρεῖσθαι, Galatians 1:4) declares the effect wrought exclusively, with no intimation of the mode of action by which it is attained: the purpose of Christ’s giving Himself for our sins is our rescue, deliverance, out of the present evil world. In the other case, the verb employed (λυτροῦσθαι, Titus 2:14) has a distinct modal connotation: Christ’s purpose in giving Himself for us is to ransom us from every iniquity, and thus to purify for Himself a people of His own, zealous of good works. The concept of ransom intrinsic in Christ’s giving Himself for us is here expressly carried over to the ultimate effects, our deliverance from all iniquity, and our purification for Christ, ‘so that,’ as B. Weiss puts it, ‘His giving Himself up for our liberation from guilt is conceived as the ransom-price, apart from which these things could not result’ (Die Briefe Pauli an Timotheus und Titus5, 1885, p. 384 n. [Note: . note.] ). This is only to say, in our current modes of speech, that the ransom paid by Christ, when He gave Himself for us, purchases for us not only relief from the guilt but also release from the power of sin.

How little such a reference to the revolution wrought in the life of Christians empties the term ‘to ransom’ of its implication of purchase may be learned from 1 Peter 1:8 f. Peter is here as completely engrossed with conduct as Paul is in Titus 2:14. He too is exhorting his readers to a life, during their sojourn here expecting the revelation of the Lord, consonant with their high dignity as a people of God’s own possession. And he too seeks to gain force for his exhortation by reminding them of what they owe to Christ their Ransomer. The thing asserted to be secured by this ransoming is, with Peter as with Paul, an ethical deliverance. ‘Knowing,’ says he, ‘that ye were redeemed … from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers’ (1 Peter 1:18). The thought is closely similar to that of Galatians 1:4 : ‘That he might deliver us out of this present evil world.’ If we should be tempted to suppose that, therefore, the term ‘ransomed,’ as here used, has lost its implication of purchase, and become the exact equivalent of the ‘deliver’ of Galatians 1:4, Peter at once undeceives us by emphasizing precisely the idea of purchasing. The peculiarity of the passage consists just in the fullness with which it dwells on the price paid for our deliverance. Paul contented himself in Titus 2:14 with saying merely that Christ ‘gave himself for us.’ Peter tells us that this means that He poured out His blood for us. ‘Ransomed’ here, although used exactly as in Titus 2:14, cannot possibly mean simply ‘delivered.’ It means distinctively, ‘delivered by means of the payment of a price.’

What the price was which Christ paid to ransom us ‘from our vain manner of life, handed down from our fathers,’ Peter develops with great fullness, both negatively and positively. Negatively, he tells us, it was no corruptible thing, no silver or gold. His mind is running on the usual commodities employed in the ordinary ransomings familiar to everyday life; and we perceive that he intends to represent the ransoming of which Christians are the object as similar in kind to them. It differed from them only in the incomparable greatness of the price paid; and this carries with it the greatness of the evil from which it delivers us and the greatness of the good which it secures for us. The price paid, Peter tells us positively, is the blood of Christ. This blood he characterizes in a two-fold manner. On the one hand, he speaks of it, enhancing its value, as precious. It is at great cost that we have been ransomed. On the other hand, intimating the source of its efficacy, he compares it with the blood ‘of a lamb without blemish and without spot’ (1 Peter 1:19). The sacrificial allusion here is manifest, whether we think (with Hermann Gunkel), through the medium of Is 53, of the ordinary offerings (cf. Leviticus 23:12), or (with F. J. A. Hort) particularly of the Paschal lamb (cf. Exodus 12:5). The main point to observe is that Peter feels no incongruity in blending the ideas of ransom and sacrifice. The blood which Christ shed as a sacrifice is the blood by which we are ransomed. The two modes of representation express a single fact.

Peter does not inform his readers of these things as something new to them. He presents them as matters which are of common knowledge: ‘knowing, as you do, that,’ etc. ‘It is an appeal to an elementary Christian belief’ (F. J. A. Hort, The First Epistle of St. Peter I. 1-II. 17, p. 75). Of course, then, there are other allusions to them, more or less full, scattered through the NT. There is, for instance, a similar conjunction of the notions of sacrifice and ransom in Hebrews 9:12. There we are told that Christ, in contrast with the priests of the old dispensation, ‘a high priest of the good things to come, … not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place having obtained eternal ransoming.’ There are not two acts intimated here: by the one shedding of His blood, Christ both entered once for all into the holy place and obtained an eternal ransoming. The correspondence of the ‘once for all’ in the one clause and the ‘eternal’ in the other should not be overlooked; it is a binding link assimilating the two assertions to one another. Christ, unlike the Levitical priests with their repeated entrances, entered the holy place ‘once for all,’ because the ransoming He was obtaining through His blood was not like theirs, temporary in its effect, but ‘eternal,’ that is to say, of never-failing absoluteness (cf. ‘eternal Spirit,’ Hebrews 9:14, ‘eternal inheritance,’ Hebrews 9:15). The effect of the sacrificial shedding of Christ’s blood is here expressed in terms of ransoming.

Precisely how this author conceived this ransoming is made plain by a phrase which he employs three verses further on: ‘a death having taken place for the ransoming of the transgressions.’ He is still contrasting the effective work of Christ with the merely representative work of the Old Covenant. A promise had been given of an eternal inheritance. But men had not received the heritage which had thus been promised. Their sins stood in the way, and there was no sacrifice which took away sin. Christ had now brought such a sacrifice. In His case a death had taken place ‘for the ransoming of the transgressions’ which they had committed. ‘Ransoming’ here conveys a meaning which might have been conveyed by ‘expiation.’ The term used is not the simple form λύτρωσις, but the strengthened form ἀπολύτρωσις; and the construction is inexact-it is not the transgressions but the transgressors that are ransomed. But the meaning is plain. ‘The genitive expresses in a wide sense the object on which the redemption is exercised (“redemption in the matter of the transgressions,” “transgression-redemption”)’ (B. F. Westcott, Hebrews, p. 264). It was because men had sinned that they required to be ransomed; sin had brought them into a condition from which they could be delivered only by a ransom. And the ransom required was a death. The matter is put quite generally ‘a death having taken place for ransoming the transgressions.’ This death was, in point of fact, Christ’s death; and it was because it was Christ’s death that it was adequate to its end (Hebrews 9:14). But the fundamental point in our present passage is that Christ could ransom men from their sins, that is to say, from the consequences of their sins, including, of course, that consciousness of sin which bites into the conscience (Hebrews 9:14), only by dying. By sacrificing Himself He put away sin (Hebrews 9:26); He was offered to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28). The images of sacrifice and of ransoming are inextricably interwoven, but it easily emerges that Christ is thought of, in giving Himself to death, as giving Himself as a ransom-price to deliver men from the guilt and penalties of sin.

This representation meets us again, very tersely put, in Ephesians 1:7, of which Colossians 1:14 is a slightly less completely expressed repetition. The ransoming (ἀπολύτρωσις) which is in Christ, described with more particularity in Ephesians again as having been procured ‘through his blood,’ is in both passages alike identified immediately with ‘the remission of our trespasses’ (Eph.), or ‘of our sins’ (Col.). ‘The studied precision,’ as J. B. Lightfoot phrases it in his note on Colossians 1:14, with which the ransoming is thus defined to be just ‘remission of sins,’ is the more noteworthy because it is apparently directly contrasted as such with the wider ‘deliverance’ (ἐρύσατο) from the power of darkness and removal into the Kingdom of the Son of God’s love, for which it supplies the ground. It is because Christ has at the cost of His blood, that is, by dying for us, purchased for us remission of sins (which is our ransoming), that we have deliverance from the tyranny of darkness and are transferred under His own rule. We thus reach a very close determination of the exact point at which the ransoming act of Christ operates, and of the exact evil from which it immediately relieves us. It relieves us of the guilt and the penal consequences of our sins; and only through that relief does it secure to ns other blessings. It is, at its very centre, just ‘the remission of our sins’ that we have in Christ when we have in Him our ransoming.

The great passage in which the nature of our ransoming is unfolded for us, however, is Romans 3:24. There, nearly all the scattered intimations of its essential nature found here and there in other passages are gathered together in one comprehensive statement. The fundamental declarations of this very pregnant passage are, that men, being sinners, can be justified only gratuitously, by an act of pure grace on God’s part; that God, however, can so act towards them in His grace, only because there is a ransoming (ἀπολύτρωσις) available for them in Christ Jesus; and that this ransoming was procured by the death of Christ as an expiatory sacrifice, enabling God righteously to forgive sins. The ransoming found-perhaps we may even say stored-in Christ Jesus is here represented as the result of His sacrificial death; this sacrificial death is made the ground of God’s forgiveness of sins; and this forgiveness of sins is identified with the justification which God gratuitously grants believing sinners. The blending of the ideas of ransoming and expiation is complete; the ‘blood of Christ,’ in working the one, works also the other. The ascription to God of the whole process of justification, including apparently the ransoming act itself, which is usually (but not always) ascribed to Christ, but which is thus traced back through Christ to God, whose will in this too Christ does, is apparently due to the emphasis with which, throughout the passage, the entirety of salvation, in all its elements, is attributed to God’s free grace. This emphasis on the gratuitousness of the whole saving process is the most noticeable feature of the passage. It has been strangely contended (e.g. by T. Zahn) that it is inconsistent with the conception of a ransom, strictly taken. There is, however, not even an antinomy here: the gratuitousness of justification quoad homines cannot possibly exclude the grounding of that act in the blood of Christ, as a ransom paid for men from without. What the passage teaches is, that all men have sinned and have failed to attain the glory God has in mind for them; all are in this matter in like case; those whom God justifies-namely, all believers-are, then, justified freely, by God’s grace alone. But it does not teach that God acts thus, in His free grace, justifying sinners gratuitously so far as they are concerned, arbitrarily and with no adequate ground for His action. On the contrary, it asserts a ground for His justifying act; and the ground which it asserts is the ransoming that is in Christ Jesus. It says, indeed, ‘not on the ground of the ransoming that is in Christ Jesus’ (διὰ τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν), but ‘through the instrumentality of the ransoming that is in Christ Jesus’ (διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως). But this is only a formal difference. What Paul says is, that the ransoming that is in Christ Jesus is the means by which men, being sinners, are brought by God into a justification which they cannot secure for themselves. If the ransoming that is in Christ Jesus is the means by which alone they can be justified, that is only another way of saying that God, who gratuitously justifies them in His grace, proceeds in this act in view of nothing in them, but solely in view of the ransoming that is in Christ Jesus. How this ransoming comes to be in Christ Jesus is, then, immediately explained: God has set Him forth as an expiatory sacrifice through faith in His blood, for the manifestation of His righteousness in the forgiveness of sins. Christ, then, has been offered as an expiatory sacrifice; this enables God to forgive sins righteously; those thus forgiven are justified gratuitously; and this justification has taken place in view of, and that is as much as to say by means of, the ransoming which has resulted from the shedding of the blood of Christ. The ransoming provided by Christ is, in a word, the means by which God is rendered gracious; and in this His grace, thus secured for us, He gratuitously justifies us, although we, as sinners, have no claim upon this justification.

The fundamental idea underlying the representation of salvation as a ransoming is its costliness. In some of the passages which have been adduced this idea is thrown very prominently forward. This is the case with Romans 3:24, and, indeed, with all the passages in which Christ is said to have given ‘Himself,’ or ‘His blood,’ as a ransom for His people; and it is elaborated in much detail in such passages as Hebrews 9:12 and 1 Peter 1:18 f. But the emphasis often falls no less on the value of the acquisition obtained, and that both on its negative and on its positive sides. Naturally it is the eschatological aspects of this acquisition on which ordinarily most stress is laid. These eschatological aspects of our ransoming are brought very decidedly into the foreground, for example, in Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 1:18, and not less so in Hebrews 9:12, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14. When the mind is thus occupied with the eschatological results of the ransoming, it is apt to be relatively less engaged with the nature of the ransoming act itself, and we may be tempted to read the term ‘ransoming’ as if its whole implication were absorbed in the simple idea of ‘deliverance.’ This is, of course, not really the case. The term ‘ransoming’ is employed instead of one by which nothing more than ‘deliverance’ would be expressed, precisely because the writer is conscious that the deliverance of which he is speaking has been secured only at a cost, and instinctively employs a term which intimates this fact. It was thus a true feeling which led James Morison (A Critical Exposition of the Third Chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 1866, p. 254) to insist that by the terms in question is expressed not mere deliverance, but ‘deliverance which is effected in a legitimate way, and in consistency with the rights and claims of all parties concerned.’ We must, however, go a step further and recognize that the deliverance intimated by these terms is thought of distinctively as resting on a purchase, as, in a word, the issue of a ransoming. This is, at all events, the state of the case with the NT instances.

When we read, for example, in Romans 8:23, that we, in this life, are groaning within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, and then this adoption is defined as ‘the ransoming (ἀπολύτρωσις) of our body,’ the word ‘ransoming’ cannot be taken out of hand as merely ‘deliverance,’ and much less can it be supposed to intimate that a special ransom shall be paid at the last day for the deliverance of the body. What is meant is that the deliverance of our bodies-by which is intended just our resurrection, connected in this context with the repristination of the physical universe, an object as yet of hope only-shall be experienced in due season, not as something with the salvation we are enjoying here and now in its first-fruits, but as its consummation; that is to say, as one of the results of the ransom paid by Christ in His blood on the Cross, from which flow all the blessings which, as believers, we receive. It is because Paul’s mind is fixed upon this fundamental ransom-paying that he uses here a term which imports a ransoming and not one of mere deliverance.

Similarly, when we read in the closing words (Ephesians 1:14) of that splendid hymn of praise which opens the Epistle to the Ephesians, that believers, having received the promised Spirit, defined specifically as ‘the earnest of the inheritance,’ have been ‘sealed unto the ransoming of the acquired possession, to the praise of God’s glory,’ every element in the wording of the statement itself, and of the context as well, cries out against seeing in the term ‘ransoming’ anything else but a reminder that this deliverance is an issue of the ransom-paying of Christ in His blood. This ransom-paying had just (Ephesians 1:7) been defined as made by Christ in His blood, and as consisting in the remission of our trespasses. As it is impossible to suppose that the term is used in two radically different senses in the same sentence, so it is impossible to imagine that those who are delivered are described expressly as God’s ‘acquired possession,’ and their deliverance is made dependent upon their reception of the Spirit, described specifically as ‘the earnest of their inheritance,’ without a very precise intention of connecting this deliverance with the ransom-paying out of which it flows as its consummation. And, this being true, it is quite clear that ‘the day of ransoming’ of Ephesians 4:30 does not mean the day on which the ransom shall be paid, nor merely the day of a deliverance wrought somehow or other not intimated, but distinctly the day on which there shall be actually experienced the ultimate results of the ransom-paying which Christ has made ‘through his blood’ (Ephesians 1:7), that is, at His death on the Cross, assured to believers, because they are sealed thereto by the Holy Spirit of God, received now as the earnest of their inheritance.

There seems no reason to doubt that the same conception underlies the language of our Lord (Luke 21:28) when He encourages His followers to see in the signs of the coming of the Son of Man, fearful to others, the indications of their approaching ‘ransoming’ (ἀπολύτρωσις): ‘But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; because your ransoming draweth nigh.’ He does not point them to the time when the ransom which He came into the world to pay (Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28) is at length to be paid for them; neither does He promise them some other deliverance, different from that and disconnected with it, which they might expect some time in the undefined but distant future. He says ‘your ransoming,’ intimating that it was already theirs in sure expectation; He speaks of it as ‘drawing nigh,’ recognizing that it was eagerly looked for. He is, of course, pointing to the complete realization of the ransoming of which He speaks in the actual deliverance which shall be experienced. But when He speaks of this deliverance as a ‘ransoming’ He is equally, of course, referring it as its result to a ransom-paying which secures it; and can we doubt that what was in His mind was His own promise that He would give His life a ransom in the place of many?

This declaration of our Lord’s (Luke 21:28) may lead us to the two or three passages (all, like it, occurring in Luke’s Gospel, Luke 1:68, Luke 2:38, Luke 24:21) which differ from the other instances in which the terms denoting ‘ransoming’ are employed in the NT, in that they do not have the great basal assertion of our Lord (Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28) behind them, but give expression to hopes nourished on the promises of the Old Covenant. We read of Zacharias, on the birth of his prophetic son, praising the God of Israel, because ‘he hath visited and wrought ransoming (λύτρωσις) for his people’ (Luke 1:68); and of Anna, the prophetess, on seeing the infant Jesus in the Temple, giving ‘thanks unto God, and speaking of him to all them that were looking for the ransoming (λύτρωσις) of Jerusalem’ (Luke 2:38); and of the two disciples, sorrowing over Jesus’ death, sadly telling their unknown Companion, as they journeyed together to Emmaus: ‘We hoped that it was he that should ransom (λυτροῦσθαι) Israel’ (Luke 24:21). Obviously these passages stand somewhat apart from those which embody the apostolic conception of the nature of the saving work of Christ. They represent rather the anticipations of the faithful in Israel with respect to the salvation promised to God’s people. Their interest to us is due to the use in them of the same terminology to express Israel’s hope which afterwards was employed by the apostles when they described Christ’s work as at its root a ransom-paying. As we can hardly ascribe to these aspirations of saints taught by the OT revelation so clearly cut and definitely conceived a conviction that the Divine deliverance for which they were waiting was to be specifically a ransoming, as we have ascribed to the apostolic writers with respect to the deliverance wrought by Christ, the question easily arises whether we have not overpressed the apostles’ language, and whether it would not be better to interpret their declarations from the vaguer, if we should not rather say the looser or at least the broader, use of the same terms in these earlier passages which represent a usage going back into the OT.

Such has been the method of many expositors (the typical instance is commonly taken from H. Oltramare on Romans 3:24; cf. the corrective in Sanday-Headlam on the same passage). Following it, they have felt entitled or bound to empty the language of the apostles, which literally expresses the idea of ransoming, when speaking of the work of Christ, more or less completely of all such implication, and to read it as conveying merely the broad idea of delivering. This method of dealing with the apostolic usage is, however, quite misleading. The language of the apostles is altogether too definite to permit such a process of evacuation to be carried successfully through with respect to it. Their teaching as to the nature of our Lord’s work as an act of ransoming is not conveyed exclusively by the implication of the ransoming terms which they prevailingly employ in speaking of it; they use other terms also, of similar meaning, side by side with them (cf. Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23, Galatians 3:13, 2 Peter 2:1, Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3-4); and they often expound their meaning in the sense of ransoming in great detail. It must not be permitted to drop out of sight that something happened between the prophetic promises of the Old Covenant reflected in the anticipations of the early days of the gospel, and the dogmatic expositions of the nature of the work of Christ by the apostles, which was revolutionary precisely with respect to the conceptions held by God’s people of the nature of His great intervention for their deliverance. We cannot interpret the apostles’ exposition of the meaning of the death of Christ and the manner in which it produces its effect-which was to them the most tremendous of experienced facts-wholly within the limits of the anticipations of even the most devout of Israelites who, at the best, only dimly perceived the necessity of a suffering Messiah (Luke 20:25 f.). We must expect a precision in defining the mode of God’s deliverance of His people to enter in after the experience of it as a fact, which could not exist before; and that the more, because a model which necessarily dominated all their teaching had been given His followers by our Lord Himself (Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28) for interpreting the nature of His work and the meaning of His death. F. J. A. Hort is certainly right in saying, when speaking of 1 Peter 1:19 : ‘The starting point of this and all similar language in the Epistles is our Lord’s saying in Matthew 20:28 || Mark 10:45’ (cf. also B. F. Westcott, Ephesians, 1906, p. 140, and even, though more cautiously, A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 331). Moreover, the primary assumption of this method of determining the apostolic usage of these terms is not unquestionable-to wit, that, in their earlier use, running back into the OT, the implication of purchase has dropped wholly out of sight, and only the broad sense of delivering has been retained. It is at least noticeable that the OT persistently employs terms with the implication of purchase, when speaking whether of the great typical deliverances from Egypt and the Captivity or of the greater deliverance typified by them which Jahweh was yet to bring to His people. This is no more a phenomenon of the Septuagint than of the underlying Hebrew; and it does not appear that it is due to a complete decay of feeling for the implication of purchase intrinsic in these terms. No doubt they are sometimes used when we see nothing further necessary for the sense than simple deliverance, and sometimes in parallelisms together with terms of simple deliverance. They are also used, however, when the implication of purchase is express. And we are not encouraged to think that they had ceased to bear their intrinsic meaning to the writers of the OT, even when applied to the greater matters of destiny, whether of the individual or of the nation, by such a passage, say, as Psalms 49:7-8 : ‘None of them can by any means redeem (פרה, λυτροῦσθαι) his brother, nor give to God a ransom (בֹּפָר, ἐξίλασμα) for him: (for the redemption [פִּרְיוֹן, τὴν τιμὴν τῆς λυτρώσεως] of their life is costly …)’; or by such a passage as, say, Isaiah 43:1 ff. ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed thee (נְּאַלְתִּיךָ, ἐλυτρωσάμην); … I have given Egypt as thy ransom (כָּפְרְךָ, ἄλλαγμα), Ethiopia and Sea for thee.… I have loved thee; therefore will I give men for thee, and peoples for thy life.’ The truth seems to be that the language of ransoming and redemption is employed in the OT to describe the deliverances which Israel had experienced or was yet to experience at the Divine hands, not because this language had lost to the writers of the OT its precise import, but in order to intimate that these deliverances were not, and were not to be, without cost. Even the later Jews were not without some sense of this, and looked about for the purchase-price. ‘With two bloods,’ says the Midrash on Exodus 12:22, ‘were the Israelites delivered from Egypt, with the blood of the paschal lamb and with the blood of circumcision’ (A. Wünsche, Bibliotheca Rabbinica, ii. [1890] 135, as cited by F. J. A. Hort on 1 Peter 1:19, p. 79b). There is no compelling reason, then, why we should not recognize an implication of purchase, however undefined, even in Luke 1:68; Luke 2:38; Luke 24:2 f.

If there be any instance in the NT of the use of a derivative of λύτρον, from which this implication is wholly absent, it will most probably be found in Hebrews 11:35, where, in the bead-roll of the heroes of faith, we are told of some who were beaten to death, ‘not accepting the ransoming (ἀπολύτρωσις), that they might obtain a better resurrection.’ There is nothing in the context to intimate that the deliverance from their martyrdom which they refused was to be purchased by a ransom. But is anything further needed to carry this intimation than the employment of this particular word, in which the idea of a ransom is included? Is it not possible that the writer has selected this particular word (it is not employed in the account from which he is drawing) precisely in order to intimate that Eleazar and ‘the seven brethren with their mother’-if he is really alluding to their cases (2 Maccabees 6, 7)-felt apostasy too great a price to pay for their deliverance? They did not refuse a bare deliverance; they refused a deliverance on a condition, a deliverance which had to be paid for at a price which they rated as too high. The term employed is, at all events, perfectly adapted to express this fact; and the words of this stem, when used elsewhere in this Epistle, retain the implication of purchase (2 Maccabees 9:11; 2 Maccabees 9:15).

There is another passage in which we are practically dependent on the implications of the form itself, without the aid of contextual indications, to determine its meaning. This is 1 Corinthians 1:30, where the Apostle, in enumerating the contents of that wisdom which Christ has brought to His followers, orders the several elements, which he mentions, thus: ‘that is to say, righteousness and sanctification, and also ransoming.’ It is a little surprising to find the ‘ransoming’ (ἀπολύτρωσις) placed after the righteousness and sanctification, of which it is the condition. We may, therefore, be tempted to give it some looser sense in which it may appear to be conceived as following upon them, if not chronologically, at least logically. There seems to be no justification, however, for departing from the proper meaning of a word which is not only clear in its natural meaning, but is closely defined in other passages in Paul’s writings in accordance with this natural meaning. We may think, with Lightfoot and T. C. Edwards, of the eschatological usage of the word, and understand it ‘of redemption consummated in our deliverance from all sin and misery’; and suppose it to be mentioned last because referring to the final deliverance, and, therefore, ‘almost equivalent to ζωὴ αἰώνιος’ (Lightfoot, ad loc.; cf. also Edwards, ad loc.). Or we may think with H. A. W. Meyer and C. F. G. Heinrici of its ordinary use as the proper term to designate the act by which Christ purchased His people to Himself by the outpouring of His blood, and suppose it to be mentioned last in the enumeration of the blessings received from Christ, with the emphasis of climax, because it supplies the basis of those further acts of salvation (justification and the gift of the Spirit), by means of which righteousness and holiness are conveyed to believers. The one thing which we cannot easily suppose is that Paul has departed in this one instance from his uniform usage of a word which holds the rank of a technical term in his writings. A. Deissmann cries out: ‘This rare word occurs seven times in St. Paul!’ (op. cit. p. 331, n. [Note: . note.] 2). The reason obviously is that Paul had something to say which he needed this word to say. Are we to suppose that he might just as well have used the common words, current in everyday speech, for what he had to say?

How little strange the idea of salvation as a thing purchased is to this particular Epistle may be observed from the declaration twice repeated: ‘Ye were bought with a price’ (1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Corinthians 7:23), which Paul uses as an incitement to Christian effort. The addition to the assertion of the verb that we have been ‘bought,’ of the words, ‘with a price,’ serves to give great emphasis to the exclusion of all notion that salvation was acquired for us without the payment of an equivalent, and thus to make very prominent the essential idea of exchange which underlies the conception of ransoming. What the price was which was paid for our purchasing is not mentioned in these passages: it was too well understood to require explicit statement. It is similarly taken for granted in the like allusion in 2 Peter 2:1, where the false teachers who were vexing the Church are condemned as even ‘denying the Master (δεσπότης) that bought them.’ There is no question that they were bought: this pungent fact is rather treated as the fundamental thing in the consciousness of all Christians, and is therefore employed as a whip to their consciences to scourge them to right conduct towards their Master. In all these instances the stress falls on the ownership over us acquired by Christ by His purchase of us. They therefore naturally suggest the remarkable words of Paul, when, in bidding farewell to the Ephesian elders, he exhorts them ‘to feed the church of God, which he acquired by means of his own blood’ (Acts 20:28). Although, however, not the specific ‘purchased’ but the broader ‘acquired’ is employed here, the emphasis is shifted from the mere fact of acquisition and consequent ownership to the costliness of the acquisition, and therefore the price paid for it is not only explicitly mentioned but strongly stressed. God has acquired His Church by means of His own blood, a paradoxical statement which presented no difficulties to Paul and his readers, but rather was freighted with the liveliest gratitude. Whence ‘the church of God’ was thus acquired ‘by means of his own blood,’ we learn from the new songs of the Apocalypse. It was ‘purchased out of the earth,’ ‘from among men’ (Acts 14:3-4), or, more explicitly, ‘of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation’ (Acts 5:9). And here we are reminded again of the great price which was paid for it, and of the great deliverance which was obtained for it at this great cost. The purchase-price was nothing less than ‘the blood of the Lamb,’ and they that are purchased are ‘loosed (λύειν, the primitive of λυτροῦσθαι) from their sins in his blood’ (Acts 1:5), and made unto God ‘a kingdom and priests’ (Acts 1:5, Acts 5:10) who shall ‘reign upon the earth’ (Acts 5:10). All the virtues gather to them-‘they are without blemish’ (Acts 14:5). That nothing should be lacking to the presentation of the whole idea of ransoming outside the term itself, we find Paul employing the exact synonym, ‘to buy out’ (ἐξαγοράζειν), to express the common idea. ‘God sent forth his Son,’ he tells us, ‘born of a woman, born under the law, that he might buy out them under law, that we might receive the adoption of sons’ (Galatians 4:4 f.); &#

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Redemption'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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